Valley News – Enfield voters approve nearly every article at outdoor town hall meeting
ENFIELD – Voters approved all but one of the items on the upstairs portion of the town of Enfield meeting, held outside in Huse Park in tents and cars parked nearby on Saturday.
Amid the wind and cold, about 75 voters – many wearing hats and coats, as well as face masks required by a city ordinance – turned out to make decisions on city spending during the three-hour meeting.
Voters said yes to two separate $ 1.9 million projects, one to improve the municipal water system and the other to improve the sewer system, which they previously rejected during the 2020 municipal meeting held last summer. They also approved a general fund budget of $ 7.15 million, a 6% increase, or about $ 400,000, from last year’s spending plan.
Tim Jennings, who ran the city’s public works department in the 1990s and opposed the sewer and water projects at the July meeting, asked a friend to read a letter of support when from Saturday’s meeting, which he couldn’t attend. In the letter, Jennings said the city had reached this stage of the pandemic with “little impact on the city’s finances” and that both projects were “technically sound” and “cautious.”
The water project aims to replace aging transmission lines and find a new water source to replace an old one, said Jim Taylor, director of the Department of Public Works.
“We are not short of water,” he said. “We want to make sure that we take care of our resources. (We) don’t want to end up like Texas did with its power grid.
Meanwhile, the sewer project aims to reduce entry and infiltration into the sewage system in order to reduce the amount of water that Enfield unnecessarily sends to Lebanon for treatment at a cost, Taylor said.
Resident Jo-Ellen Courtney urged other voters to support the sewer project, saying she believes heavier rains “are having a big impact on the sewer system.”
Voters had little to say about the 6% increase in the general fund budget, which they approved in a manual vote, 62-5. The increases in spending are attributable to the filling of three positions that were not included in last year’s budget, as well as higher costs for health care, insurance and pensions.
The city also expects a reduction in non-tax revenue. Enfield received more than $ 200,000 in COVID-19 relief grants last year and has seen an increase in motor vehicle registrations, according to the city report.
The Budget Committee estimates that the spending plan will increase taxes by 43 cents for every $ 1,000 of a property’s real estate value, which equates to an additional $ 107 in taxes for a $ 250,000 home.
In separate articles, voters also supported several other capital projects, including $ 570,000 to replace a fire truck, $ 195,000 for a replacement dump truck for the public works department, $ 133,800 for the improvements to public works facilities, $ 47,000 to replace a police car and $ 50,000 for a new public works van.
The only article voted down, 51-23, would have spent $ 50,000 on a new utility vehicle for the fire department. Deputy Fire Chief Jeremy Ford said the service was looking to replace an aging vehicle used for towing equipment in an emergency to “be proactive (and) push maintenance costs onto the road.”
But, during the discussion, resident Gary Hutchins asked for a one-year delay on this purchase to give the city time to consider purchasing an electric pickup truck instead. This postponement “gives everyone time to learn,” he said.
Ford said he believed the purchase could be delayed for a year as he saw no immediate issues with the truck the department currently has.
After some debate, voters also approved spending $ 35,000 from the general fund to support the development of a new master plan. The city’s most recent master plan was approved in 1995, despite recommendations that municipalities update their plans every five to seven years, said David Fracht, chairman of the Enfield Planning Commission.
A task force of planning commissioners and other community members is leading the effort, but they need the money to hire a professional planner to shape the information volunteers collect into a usable plan, has he declared.
“Voting no on this will inspire the city to do things out of date,” said Holly West, who sits on Enfield’s Capital Improvement Committee.
The measure was easily approved by a voice vote. Volunteers should organize a general planning contribution opportunity for community members from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at Huse Park. More information about the effort is available online at enfield-leaps.org.
Nora Doyle-Burr can be contacted at [email protected] or 603-727-3213.